THE HIGHS, LOWS & EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN OF INTERNING AT SATURDAY KIDS
Ever wondered what it would be like interning at Saturday Kids? Sandra Yim, our returning intern shares a candid account of how she spent half her gap year learning how to ‘adult’ and navigate post-graduation blues with the Saturday Kids squad!
In May of 2016, I celebrated the completion of 3 gruelling but eventful years of studying Mass Communication in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Graduation highs lasted for a good 5 minutes before I was struck by the realisation that I had no idea where to go moving forward.
All I could think of was – crap, now what?
Filled with a truckload of uncertainty, self-doubt and the fear of jumping into an undergraduate course I’d probably regret 3 days later, I decided to take a gap year to gain some valuable working experience. At least that’s what I told my parents so they’d stop asking me what I wanted to do in life.
Jumping Into The Unknown
And thus began the job hunt to put my diploma and time to good use. Armed with a love for writing, designing and a desperate need to get my life together, I filtered furiously through job listings looking for a place I could channel my passion into.
Several ‘blue ticked’ job applications later, I stumbled upon a listing on Glints for Saturday Kids. I proceeded to check out their website and creep through their social media pages to get a sense of the company and I remember liking what I saw.
The whole concept of empowering kids with the skills to create in a world that was becoming increasingly digital was something that resonated with me deeply. That and the fact that I love kids spurred me to take a leap of faith and apply for a position despite not being able to code to save my life.
I sent in my CV on a Saturday afternoon, not expecting anyone to give this non-programmer the time of day but barely 3 hours later, a guy named John replied and asked me to come down for a chat. I spent the next few hours thinking: what on earth did I just get myself into and the rest was history.
Learning To Scale A Mountain With My Bare Hands
My first few weeks as a marketing and operations intern involved ordering 200 party hats, designing posters, assisting in a class full of preschoolers and familiarizing myself with platforms and programming languages that were completely foreign to me.
Let’s just say, the learning curve was almost vertical and life felt a little something like this:
It also didn’t help that there were literally only 2-3 people in the office on most days and none of them were around my age. Man was it a tough time.
Look At All The Stuff I Learnt!
As my internship progressed, I got to dip my toes in helping to plan and execute marketing campaigns for Holiday Camps and events, take charge of the weekly newsletter and document Eureka moments of kids through the lens of a Canon 70D.
I also had to help prep the materials for classes. Printing endless piles of worksheets and certificates of completion became a regular affair and I unofficially became the most acquainted with the office printer out of the entire team. #internachievementunlocked.
One of my proudest achievements would be learning how to use VLOOKUP in Excel to extract info from the Mother of all Excel sheets that was our customer database.
It certainly took me awhile to get a hang of what I was doing but thankfully, I did. From not knowing how to code for nuts, I even managed to teach a class of 8 how to code their own game on an iPad!
In my remaining months at Saturday Kids, I would go on to design my first batch of stickers, revamp the copy and visuals on the site, visit Google’s HQ and run a customer service workshop for the rest of the team. At one point I’m pretty sure I spent an entire day just playing different Scratch games created by our very own students for marketing purposes. It was awesome.
Being Comfortable With The Uncomfortable
Throughout my time as an intern, I felt as though I was constantly catapulted out of my comfort zone.
For instance, everyone on the team took turns to do customer service so that we could all get some perspective on what parents were looking for in our classes. It was a great opportunity to interact directly with the people whose kids we’d be empowering, but for someone who was painfully awkward and undeniably introverted, this was probably the most difficult thing.
“What do I do if they rage at me? What if I can’t answer their questions? Also, what do I do with my hands?”
These were the type of questions that plagued my first few customer service experiences but surprisingly, talking to parents turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the job.
As it turns out, not knowing how to code actually worked to my advantage. It was the best way for me to put myself in the shoes of parents and address their concerns and woes. Most of the parents who called in didn’t know much about programming either but knew it was important, and boy could I relate. With my nonexistent background in coding, I could better explain the different programming languages and courses we offered in a way that these parents could understand and it worked!
Talking them through the courses we had, meeting them in person when they dropped their kids off for class and seeing firsthand what their kids could create made everything so worthwhile. It reminded me of the big picture that we were helping kids learn how to learn all over again through sheer curiosity and technology. On days where I had creative dry spells or spent Friday nights cutting cardboard till the cows came home, these reminders definitely came in handy.
I was also really blessed to have colleagues, whom I now proudly call my homies (hi John, Shawn & Urvi), who took the time to mentor and guide me through what I had to do. Being surrounded by people who were driven by the same mission and actively contributed to it within their own unique capacity was incredibly inspiring. In a day and age where typical desk jobs sucked the life out of you, I genuinely looked forward to work (on most days).
As fulfilling and fun as my internship at Saturday Kids was on some days, there were also times where I felt so overwhelmed by the workload I wanted to just crawl in a hole and hide. Times where I felt so exhausted and defeated by everything and anything. But nothing worth achieving in life ever comes easy and looking back I’m glad I persevered, albeit with a fair share of blood, sweat and tears.
It’s pretty crazy how much I’ve learnt and done in the span of 6 short months. Besides expanding my knowledge and vocabulary of coding, marketing and operations, there are 3 lessons I’ve learnt here that’ll probably stick with me for life:
1) Passion is and always will be the result of action, not the cause of it.
For the longest time after graduating, I tried to figure out what I was passionate about and how I could fit that into a job title. But discovering what you’re passionate about is a full-on trial-and-error process. You don’t find your passion thinking about what you’re passionate about, you find it trying out a bunch of different things till you stumble on something you’d work on tirelessly.
2) No one ever grows much staying within their comfort zone
There will be times in life where you just gotta #YOLO your way through head first. Exhibit A: applying for a position at a coding school with zero coding skills. See? That turned out pretty well.
Limiting yourself to only what you’re good at and what you can do will stop you from growing into someone you never even dreamed of being. So just go for it! Take risks. Try it out and see what happens.
3) Never stop learning
For the most part of my time in school, I really hated studying. I hated the vicious cycle of cramming 2,381 facts in my brain and regurgitating it out during exams only to forget everything after I left the exam hall. I just didn’t see the point in learning anything.
But luckily, I realised that was a horrible way to live. When you stop learning, you’ll soon neglect what you already know. When you stop wanting to learn, you stop being curious and everything in life becomes dull and monotonous. You may not be able to change the system alone, but you can definitely change the way you think.
Do yourself a favour: listen to Einstein. He sounds like he knew what he was doing. All in all – Never EVER stop learning.
Why I Decided To Return
Although I decided to go back to school and further my education, I was so damn reluctant to leave. So when I had to apply for a compulsory university internship, it was a no-brainer decision. I was beyond ready to pick up where I left off.
Saturday Kids really set the bar for the way all internships should be – challenging but nonetheless immensely fulfilling. Working here will always be my happy place and I’m stoked to be back again doing my second round of internship.
I guess Saturday Kids do turn out more curious, inventive and resourceful after all.